Seven Arrested in FBI Bombing Plot
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) _ Seven people connected with a right-wing militia were arrested Friday on charges of plotting to blow up the FBI’s national fingerprint record center and two other federal buildings in West Virginia.
Agents began making the arrests after Floyd Raymond Looker, the leader of the Mountaineer Militia, gave blueprints of the FBI complex to an undercover agent in exchange for $50,000, the FBI said. The agent was posing as a middleman for a fictitious international terrorist group.
The blueprints of the new $200 million FBI complex in Clarksburg were obtained by a Clarksburg firefighter who belonged to the militia, the FBI said. The fire department keeps the blueprints in case of a fire.
``There was a plot. It was ended before it could be consummated,″ said John P. O’Connor, agent in charge of the FBI’s Pittsburgh-based division. ``There were never any explosive devices constructed. There was no immediate threat to our facility.″
O’Connor said the militia also targeted two other federal facilities in the state. He wouldn’t identify the places.
Law officers confiscated plastic explosives and detonators Friday at five places in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The arrests came after a 16-month investigation.
The fingerprint complex is known as the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division. Opened last year, it contains fingerprint records that the FBI has collected from police departments nationwide. The identification division provides information to state and local police departments.
The fingerprint center eventually will use computer programs for converting fingerprints into electronic images. This will enable the FBI to perform fingerprint checks in a matter of hours instead of weeks or months.
Automated criminal record-keeping will also be available for background checks, whether the person is seeking a job at a day-care center or trying to buy a gun.
The seven defendants were jailed without bail pending hearings next week. The charges included conspiring to make bombs, transporting explosives across state lines and conspiring to place explosives near the FBI complex.
The conspiracy charges carry up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The other counts carry up to 10 years and $250,000 in fines.
O’Connor said Looker, 56, of Stonewood and firefighter James Rogers, 40, of Jane Lew were members of the militia organization. Court papers identified Edward F. Moore, 52, of Lavalette as a colonel with the group.
O’Connor said he didn’t know how the other four were connected to the militia group. They were identified as Jack Arland Phillips, 57, of Fairmont; James M. Johnson, 48, of Maple Heights, Ohio; Terrell P. Coon, 46, of Waynesburg, Pa.; and Imam A. Lewis, 26, of Cleveland.
In court papers, the FBI described several meetings this year involving Moore, Phillips and Looker at which explosives were displayed. At one meeting, according to the FBI, Moore said he was working on a rocket-propelled grenade.
An undercover source said Moore provided instruction in bombs and bomb-making, and set off an explosion in a plastic bag that left a hole 2 feet wide and 4 inches deep at the Mountaineer Militia’s training site in the countryside.
On Oct. 2, the FBI said, a source met with Phillips, who showed him a plastic container which he said was filled with an ammonium nitrate and gasoline mixture ``suitable for use as an explosive.″
Looker, a real estate developer who ran unsuccessfully for state and local offices as both a Republican and Democrat, has claimed his group has members in all 55 counties of West Virginia, and in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
He has refused to say how many members are in the group, which bars outsiders from its drills.
``You don’t divulge your strength or weakness to the enemy. Currently, it’s Bill Clinton and the press,″ he told The Associated Press in April 1995.
He also claims that 1 million U.N. troops are stationed at American military bases and that the government has set up 130 concentration camps at abandoned military bases to house law-abiding citizens.
Located 120 miles south of Pittsburgh, the FBI complex eventually will employ 2,600 people. It also will house the National Criminal Information Center and the Uniform Crime Reporting Center, FBI units now in Washington.
The surrounding hills hide the complex from view, and federal officers stop all cars at two main entrances.